A quick catch up ahead of my second chemo due tomorrow. I won’t bore you with a blow-by-blow account of round two, unless anything particularly dramatic befalls me so I might be quiet for a while.
Following on from my previous post, things continued to progress well, barring the heartburn which has kicked in over the past 3 or 4 days. I’ve managed to work full-time, much to OH’s delight, and mine to be honest. Not only does it take my mind off things, but it also takes the pressure off our work schedule. I even had a day off yesterday for the annual charity shoe-box filling session. Each year my friend and I fill shoe-boxes which we donate to Link for Hope. We managed to fill 20 family boxes and 8 elderly persons boxes, which is less that we usually do, but personal circumstances this year have hindered us both. But anything is better than nothing, and it always makes me remember that whatever life moans I may have, I have been exceedingly lucky by comparison to those who will be receiving our boxes.
However, I’ll admit to having a wobble this morning and letting things get the better of me. Last Friday I noticed the odd hair starting to come loose, nothing I wasn’t expecting and par for the course. The perceived wisdom is that 10-14 days after chemo you can start to expect the hair loss to start. I’d already started to feel my scalp starting to hurt as well. It’s a strange feeling which hurts more when it’s touched so it does make sleeping a bit uncomfortable. It feels not unlike the achy feeling you have when you’ve had long hair tied up tightly in a high pony tail, or had tight curlers in and take them out. The signs were there that hair loss was imminent. Over the weekend, there was a slight hair loss in the shower but nothing dramatic – until yesterday. There was a lot, so much that I couldn’t bear to remove it from the shower and had to get OH to do it – I think I was in denial. Despite the loss, and the fact that I could feel it was much thinner, it didn’t look too bad, no-one else would have been aware of my increasing hair loss. Today that changed. In the shower it was coming out by the handful and clearing it all from the plughole it looked like a dead rat languishing on the side – OH would need to be on removal duty again. Worse was to come when I looked in the mirror, I now have exceedingly thin hair, with balding patches. It looked a complete mess and I’ll admit that for the first time in all of this shitty business, I burst into tears.
I shouldn’t have been surprised, I always knew it was coming and I thought I was OK with it. I am, on one level, OK with it, but seeing the evidence was just too much. If I’m honest I think it was less about the hair (it should hopefully all grow back) and more about the reality of the situation. Throughout this whole process it’s not been possible to see any discernible difference in my appearance. If you met me in the street, there’s nothing to indicate I’ve got cancer. Just like there was nothing to indicate I had it before discovering the lump (can’t call it Boris now – he’s gone from useless lump to being dangerously incompetent). On the good days it was easy for me to pretend that everything was normal, even more so after the last week. I did feel normal, more normal than I’ve felt since this all started. The treatment felt do-able (well so far) and everything was positive. But now, I can’t hide, I can’t pretend. Anybody meeting me in the street now, can see instantly all is not well. Despite the fact, I’ve bought hats, bandana’s and hair coverings. Despite the fact I’ve practiced exotic turbans and fancy styles with my myriad scarves. The one thing that stands out is the absence of hair, no sneaky fringe peaking through that indicates you still possess some. No stray strands to give the illusion of choice rather than necessity. The one thing it shouts is cancer and while I know I’ve got it, I don’t necessarily want everyone to know. That may seem a strange statement to make, given I’m regularly sharing all the gory details with the world, but the difference is I don’t have to see the reaction. I don’t have to see any hint of pity, or listen to the uncomfortable silence when people don’t know how to respond, or worse still some of the less than comforting comments that are made. One person helpfully told me, that their mother in law died of breast cancer – cheers, I really wanted to hear that.
While I still have some left to lose, it’s certainly reached the stage for a cover-up when leaving the house. Tomorrow it’s a midday start at The Christie, first for bloods and then my chemo, so we’re going in earlier to visit the wig department. I already have my voucher, gratefully received via The Christie charity – as I’m not eligible for benefits, I’m not eligible for an NHS wig voucher. As I understand it, the wig will need to be ordered, so I won’t be in a position to collect it until my next chemo – so you’ll have to wait to see if I dare to share.